Boston, Massachusetts 02114


The purpose of this study is to test a new treatment for preventing childbirth-related mental illness in postpartum mothers. The treatment is aimed at enhancing maternal bonding, reducing postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety in mothers at risk, and promoting child development. To this end, the investigators will test the clinical utility of intranasal (IN) oxytocin (OXT) administered to mothers during the first postpartum days.

Study summary:

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a debilitating disorder which imposes a threat to mother and infant health. An estimated 600,000 American women suffer from PPD annually, making it one of the most frequent complications of pregnancy. Available secondary preventive interventions are often ineffective, which calls for identifying novel means for prevention. Impaired mother-infant bonding is a hallmark of PPD. Depressed mothers may have difficulties developing maternal feelings and providing sensitive care. In turn, impaired bonding may worsen mother's depression. Conventional pharmacotherapy does not help with bonding impairment. This study will attempt to fill in the current gap in effective preventive interventions for pregnant mothers at risk. Evidence in postpartum mothers indicates that high peripartum OXT levels are associated with enhanced maternal behavior and low levels with depression. Data also indicates that in depressed mothers, OXT levels may decrease during the first days following childbirth rather than increase as is the norm. Therefore, the investigators will test the therapeutic effects of OXT in women at risk for PPD. It is hypothesized that administration of IN-OXT (total daily dose 48 IU) over the course of four days from as early as day one postpartum in comparison to placebo will 1) enhance mother-infant bonding, 2) reduce depressive and anxiety symptoms at 5 days postpartum, and 3) facilitate child development.


Inclusion Criteria: - Third-trimester pregnant women being followed at the MGH Obstetrics Program - At risk of postpartum depression (PPD) Exclusion Criteria: - Failure to participate in regular prenatal check-ups - Current diagnosis DSM-5 mental disorder pertaining to psychosis or substance abuse - Suicidality - Obstetric complication (e.g., preeclampsia, excessive hemorrhaging) - Use of potentially confounding or interacting medications - Complicating pediatric medical condition in the newborn.



Primary Contact:

Principal Investigator
Sharon Dekel, PhD
Massachusetts General Hosptial

Sharon Dekel, PhD
Phone: 617-726-1352

Backup Contact:


Location Contact:

Boston, Massachusetts 02114
United States

Sharon Dekel, PhD
Phone: 617-726-1352

Site Status: Recruiting

Data Source:

Date Processed: March 16, 2018

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